England face Lithuania in their 10th and final Euro 2016 qualifier on Monday night. We pick out five players with a big point to prove for club and country.
The Three Lions have a 100% record from their qualifiers so far and although Monday’s game will be something of a dead rubber, there are a number of players who will be keen to use the opportunity to showcase their talents for club and country.
Roy Hodgson has vowed to make sweeping changes for the match in Vilnius with the coach allowing five senior men, including Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, to miss the trip.
The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kyle Walker and Dele Alli could all come into the side, but it’s the following five men who we feel have, more than most, a significant point to prove.
Set to win only his second ever senior cap for England, Butland has not played for the Three Lions since becoming his country’s youngest ever goalkeeper in the 2-1 win against Italy in August 2012.
Although he’s only kept one clean sheet for Stoke this season, it’s safe to say Butland has enjoyed an excellent campaign so far for the Potters – making our statistical side for Best England XI of 2015 on the back of these performances.
Joe Hart may well be firmly established as England’s No 1, but the positions for deputy and third-choice goalkeeper remain very much up for grabs.
With Tom Heaton and John Ruddy also vying for selection – and Ben Foster still struggling to overcome a long-term knee problem – an impressive performance tonight can cement Butland’s place as Hart’s most likely deputy at Euro 2016.
A player who has fallen way down the pecking order at Manchester United, Jones is set to take his place at the centre of defence alongside captain-for-the-night Phil Jagielka.
With team-mate Chris Smalling seemingly established for club and country, and John Stones coming to the fore, Jones has become something of a forgotten figure for both club and country.
Monday, however, provides a real chance to not only prove he’s worthy of a regular place, but also that he deserves to play at centre-half – and not as a makeshift right-back as he’s so often deployed.
Jones has made just three appearances for United so far this season, with the Smalling- Daley Blind combination often being preferred by Louis van Gaal.
But with Marcos Rojo seemingly no longer in Van Gaal’s first-team plans, Jones has a chance to press home his abilities at centre-half.
Kenny Sansom, Stuart Pearce, Ashley Cole…. in all my years watching England, we never seem to be short of solid options when it comes to left-back.
Even now, the shirt probably remains one of the most overstocked when it comes to talent.
But injuries this season to Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw appears to have opened the door, with the likes of Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Cresswell all vying for international recognition.
Shaw and Baines might yet be fit for Euro 2016, but with matches to come against Spain (November 13), France (November 17) and Germany (March 26) the man in possession, Bertrand, has a huge opportunity.
The player himself has already spoken of his wish to make the most of his chance. A good performance tonight can certainly help his cause.
A player who looks to have a real chance of making England’s Euro 2016 squad, Shelvey appears to be in direct competition with (eternal crock) Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley for a place in central midfield.
After impressing in the 6-0 win against San Marino, and to a lesser extent, in the win over Switzerland, Shelvey has had to wait for his chance again after being an unused substitute in Friday’s win over Estonia.
Questions remain over whether Hodgson would truly trust Barkley to start in the major matches for England, having urged the player to study Italian greats Roberto Baggio and Francesco Totti to improve his game.
Shelvey, however, is a different proposition given his game is centered around his accurate passion and vision, a good game tonight can underpin his value to the cause and heap more pressure on the struggling Wilshere.
Seven goals in eight games have put the Englishman right at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts, yet Vardy still has much convincing to do to prove he’s worthy of his place.
Many feel he’s out of his depth at international football, but I believe Hodgson right to include him in his side. Aside from his confidence in front of goal for Leicester, he also possesses blistering pace – something England may need to use if they’re to have any success in France next summer.
An assist on Friday night suggests Vardy is feeling more at home in the international environment, and the player himself already has spoken about his aims of staying in the squad for next summer.
“No one can take their place for granted,” Vardy said. “It’s all up to me.
“If I want to be in that squad, I’ve got to keep banging in the goals.
“I need to make sure I stay in the manager’s plans, and if I’ve done that come summer we’ll see.”
- England are on course to become only the sixth side to complete European Championship qualifying with a 100% record
- England are unbeaten in 19 competitive home games, their best run since a run of 20 between 1984 and 1996
- Ross Barkley has assisted Theo Walcott’s last two England goals
- Walcott scored his eighth goal for England, but only his second at Wembley for the Three Lions
By James Marshment
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